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Lives & Times Of Valley Folks: Arline Bloom

I met with Arline at her home on Highway 128 in Boonville. It was a hot day and so the peaches and fresh water were perfect as we sat down to talk at the dining room table.

Arline was born in 1957 in San Francisco in Mt. Zion Hospital — “A Jewish baby in a Jewish hospital” — to parents George Bloom and Sally Fleishman, who had their second child, Steve, a couple of years later. Both sides of the family were originally from Russia and her father’s side changed their name from Blum in 1954, although not legally. “My paternal grandparents were both from the same area in Russia but they met in New York having come over around 1917 or so. The story goes that, in 1927, my grandmother was in a deli, when her water broke. She thought she had peed her pants. She took the train to their home in Brooklyn, not knowing anything. Days later, after eating a pickle she developed a severe abdominal pain, finding out at the hospital she was pregnant and about to give birth, to my father. He later went to the same school as comedienne Carol Channing The family moved to San Francisco in 1942 where he attended Lowell High School and served in the army during the Korean War although he was never deployed over there. He came out of the army as a Sergeant and became an accountant.”

Arline’s maternal grandparents also came separately to the U.S. Also around 1918 entering the country in New Orleans going to Chicago. “It is a bit vague, I believe my Grandparents met, married and moved to San Francisco, where my grandfather's sister lived. In 1927 my mother was born at Mills Hospital, San Mateo and her sister and brother soon followed. My mother graduated at 16 in 1943 from Washington High School, but soon afterwards the family moved to Los Angeles as the fog in San Francisco was affecting my Mom's sister’s asthma. Those days in LA anyone could be an extra. My Mother spoke of being an extra in films along with her sister. The most famous one was on the tennis court as extra in the film “Pat and Mike’ with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Days before my Mothers death we happened to catch the movie on KQED public television where my Mom was able to point out my Grandmother and my Aunt. Early in 1955, my mother went back to San Francisco. Looking for work she interviewed for a Receptionist/Bookkeeper position with George Bloom. She got the job and they were married that summer, living in San Francisco on 28th Avenue, between Clement St. and California St.”

Arline attended the Mother Goose nursery school just a couple of doors away from their home but they moved from the Richmond District to the Sunset District, across the other side of Golden Gate Park, where they still lived on 28th Avenue but now between Noriega and Moraga Streets. “I went to Robert L. Stevenson from kindergarten thru’ the first part of 1st grade but in 1963 we then moved out of the City to Burlingame on the Peninsula. Like lots of Jews at the time we moved to the suburbs where we could afford to buy a house of our own. We were in the hills with great views of San Francisco Bay. There were few cars around, with no sidewalks there, so we could bicycle safely all over the place.”

Arline enjoyed a childhood with quite a degree of freedom and would spend hours with friends on their bicycles, riding without helmets, or exploring the huge construction site that would become Mills Estates. “I was outside a lot, always on my bike, or playing softball, selling Girl Scout cookies, climbing trees. It was a very white neighborhood and I remember when some African Americans were bussed in to school for the first time. We lived close to the Temple and my brother and I both went to Sunday school. He had a Bar Mitzvah but I did not want a Bat Mitzvah for myself and had no idea about the concept of it being a rite of passage.”

“My mother’s parents did not speak English, they spoke Russian and that was my mother’s first language but this changed over the years - they had come to America to be American. My mother taught her parents English and I never heard them speak Russian. They did speak Yiddish when they wanted to say something they did not want us to hear! As for the Jewish men I knew, I had lots of male friends when I was growing up but often their Jewish-ness bothered me. In fact I have yet to meet a great New Age Jewish man, but I am still looking!”

Arline learned to play the violin as a child but other girls were much better so she was asked to switch to the string bass — “carrying that on the school bus did not go over well with me. Eventually my mother started to drive me and my bass around. She always found the time to play a part in our lives, and that included being the Brownie and Girl Scout leader, but I never related to that instrument until I was an adult.”

For her 7th and 8th grade Arline went to Burlingame Intermediate School before entering Mills High School. In the meantime she had found about a Jewish Youth group that she joined and at the age of 13 was the 3rd Vice President. She was soon very involved with this group, became President of the local chapter by her sophomore year at high school, and the President of the Bay Area’s 20 chapters by her junior year. “It was called B’nai Brith Girls, an international group, and was a natural fit for me. I was the President for two years. Most of my friends were made there, girls and boys, and we’d organize dances, ice cream socials, visit the elderly, and discus some religious topics but it was not a group that practiced any serious dogma. Sure, we’d honor our traditions with songs and folk-dances but it was not about that. It was like a youth-led high school sorority for Jewish girls; more about friendships, leadership, and fundraising for a variety of causes. The commonality was our Jewish heritage, not the religion. My time in that group was a really nice bonding experience, much more real than at high school. The end of high school also signaled the time for girls to leave the group. However, for a time I attended meetings as a counselor and advisor. I was the main leader of this group for two years and it’s a trip to meet up again as they all remember me as their leader.”

Arline had done well at school, getting A’s in Home Economics and high B’s in History, English, and Spanish, not so well in Science. In June 1975, she graduated. “The youth group had been my life. Apart from a few chores around the house, when not at school it took up all of my time. I had meetings two or three nights a week and had my driving license and my blue ’67 Bonneville and I’d travel all over the Bay Area to chapter meetings, functions, conventions, and conclaves. The Group took up, like, everything, and I became a skilled organizer and planner, not to mention the fact that I made lifelong friends there.”

Arline’s family observed all the Jewish holidays — “there were certainly plenty of them” — and they would all get together. They would often vacation in southern California where the Fleishman grandparents lived, along with many aunts, uncles, and cousins. “I was a good kid, rarely in trouble. I had little money and there was very little drinking in the Group. Doing ‘U’eys in the middle of the street in my car was about the craziest thing I’d do. Later, at college, I got a ’65 New Yorker — it was like a Sherman tank, you could fill the trunk with water and have a hot tub.”

“My parents were liberal and open, giving and kind, very accepting. I remember a close male friend of mine came out of the closet and was disowned by his Jewish parents. My father told him that if he ever needed anything he should not hesitate to call him. Our house was always open to everyone, but in some ways they were strait-laced and I was not experienced in the ways of the world.”

Upon graduation, Arline was interested in psychology but did not really know where to go or what to do so she planned to take some classes at the College of San Mateo in the fall. That summer she got a job at ‘Home Yardage’ fabric store and after six weeks as a ‘cutter’ of the materials, she had made a good impression with her analytical skills that she was offered a job as a bookkeeper. She stayed there for two years, taking classes at the JC, and living at home, and in June 1977 she graduated with an associate arts degree in Psychology.

“I applied for various colleges even though my maternal grandfather, an old fashioned Russian Jew, said he could not understand why girls would want to go to college. His daughter, my aunt, had disobeyed him and got her teaching degree and he never got over that. Anyway, I was accepted at a few universities to study psychology and decided on U.C. Berkeley. I had been kind of sheltered up to that point in my life and was not prepared for the Berkeley scene — certainly not the co-operative mixed housing and its ‘hippy’ lifestyle. I had seen hippies of course, in fact our family outings on many Sundays in the late sixties would be to San Francisco where we’d drive around looking at the hippies in the Haight and the gays in the Castro and Polk Street, the gay center in those early days.”

“Anyway, living in the promiscuity of the Berkeley co-op was way more than I could handle. I moved into a boarding g house on campus and shared a room with another girl. I was a pretty straight virgin at this point — listening to John Denver, Barry Manilow, Barbara Streisand, and Styxx! Berkeley seemed to be a place where others were taking drugs to wake up, drugs to stay awake, and drugs to get to sleep. I had a very difficult time there.”

In her senior year at Berkeley, Arline became a member of the Jewish sorority AEPhi, which was working its way back on campus. This did not mean she would spend more time on campus. “I was stressed there and was not really fitting in. I kept in touch with all my friends at home, about 20 miles away, and would return there often in my car on weekends. Hanging out on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley was just not for me, I never felt I did fit in there.”

Going into her final year at the university, Arline was struck with spastic colitis, and then ulcerative colitis, a chronic gastrointestinal illness. She was on heavy medication and found herself constantly falling asleep. During this time a class that was needed for graduation requirements was missed and although she received her diploma at her graduation ceremony in June 1979, she was told in the fall that she would have to complete that class in the following spring. She finally graduated in the spring of 1980 with a psychology degree. “Looking back clearly Berkeley was not the right school for me. It was all about the science whereas I was more into a holistic approach to the subject.”

Arline returned to Burlingame and found an apartment for herself. She got a job at the nearby Hyatt House hotel coffee shop. “I worked as a Hostess/Cashier for a couple of years, mainly doing the graveyard shift. I was settling back into my scene and although my colitis was still a problem it was becoming easier but I was still stressed and not happy. I was being scheduled for a colostomy, not dating and still a virgin. A friend of mine from the Jewish youth group thought that marijuana might help me medically. He was right. My illness was gone in a month and it never came back. I smoked a little every day after my graveyard shift and it calmed me. I became introspective in a healthy way and the marijuana took care of what I needed it to take care of. I laugh now, living where I do, that I do not smoke anymore!”

In 1981, Arline got a job as a receptionist at a C.P.A. firm in San Francisco, later becoming a bookkeeper for them. The company, Reuben E. Price and Co., had five accountants and when they disbanded in 1983 one of them moved to open his own practice in San Mateo and Arline went with him.

In the summer of 1984, Arline, now a field worker for BBYO, B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, took a group of the girls and boys from the organization to Israel — “an unforgettable experience. We worked on an architectural dig and the trip was a hoot, lots of fun, and a spiritual journey for me. I went to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and found it a very powerful place; very intense and fascinating. I liked my cultural upbringing but was still searching. Judaism had taught me to be open, kind, caring, giving but I was now looking to expand on that and looking into different spiritual things.”

On her return, Arline began to explore. Workshops were in abundance in northern California. She had met some people involved in groups like EST and LifeSpring, and other self-help and improvement activities, at her job in the hotel but had never attended any workshops. “Through a class I had at CSM a women/friend recommended ‘Sex. Love, and Intimacy’, a Human Awareness Institute workshop at Harbin Hot Springs in Lake County, northern California and I decided to go — I don’t know why. It was a weekend retreat and I really felt at home there. I opened up and new horizons became apparent to me. I got really involved and attended all four of the weekends in the series, becoming an Intern/volunteer helping assist at the gatherings. There were about 100 people at the workshops and about 12 assistants. I connected with many of these people. It was another place for long lasting friendships.”

Arline had been dating a man since January of 1984 and in April they had gone to Elk on the north coast for the weekend — it was her first time passing through Anderson Valley. “I had never come this way before. My family had always gone south for our vacations. We made a couple more visits that saw me go through the Valley again but apart from noting its beauty I didn’t think about it anymore after our trips were over. He wanted to marry me but following my trip to Israel in the June and July, it was never the same. It just did not happen for me and I broke up with him in the October.”

At the fourth and final weekend for the ‘Sex, Love, and Intimacy’ workshop, a friendship with a married man was moving beyond that, into a physical relationship also. “He and his wife were in an open relationship and it worked for all of us. It was what I needed. I was a late bloomer and had experienced no real relationships of any note. It was not as if anyone else was banging on my door — the Jewish doctor or lawyer had not shown up! I told my mother the truth and didn’t think twice about doing so. It was not about the sex, it was much more than that. One person cannot always meet all of your needs and I knew about his wife and she knew about me from the beginning. We were all friends. The long and short of it is that I moved to the Sacramento suburbs and lived with them for five years. It was also my first experience of rural living.”

While in Sacramento, Arline got her manicure license and worked as a custodian for the school district. In 1987, she began her ‘real’ career, one that she continues to do today, in Medical Education work. This involves her visiting various medical schools and colleges where, using her own body, she teaches nursing students, nurse practitioners, medical students, and physicians’ assistants on how to correctly do breast and pelvic examinations on patients. These days she continues to do this work along with scheduling, hiring, training, and coordinating both men and women to do this work

In February 1989, Arline went to San Francisco to speak. Prior to this, “I had told some friends that I was thinking of having a surprise birthday for myself — stemming from a conversation about how I like everything perfect. The thought of a surprise party would be not knowing who or how many would be at the party, therefore unable for me to plan it perfectly. At the meeting, a guy by the name of Ray Langevin announces that he is planning a surprise party for himself. Who does that? It piqued my interest that we were thinking the same thought. I went to his party. We had met a few years earlier, around 1984, when he was looking for a bookkeeper — yes, that job cropping up once again! — and I did some work for him, once a month for a few months. At his party I told him if he needed a friend I would be there for him. We went our separate ways. Well that September he called me and wanted to take up my offer of friendship. We clicked and as I was now doing catering he started to give me a hand with that. We were friends at first. When the earthquake hit the Bay Area that October I was very concerned with his safety and I realized I had developed some deep feelings for him.”

Arline’s relationships in Sacramento were closing down and she was spending more time back in the Bay Area, bringing more and more of her belongings to Ray’s place in the outer Richmond District. “My father had committed suicide in 1986 but my mother was still alive and I’d visit her quite often, plus many of my teaching jobs were in the area. Soon Ray and I were dating seriously and I moved in with him in late 1989.”

For the next ten years Arline lived in San Francisco while she continued to do her teaching work, plus run her catering business and work for the Department of Public Health, and Ray worked as a general contractor/handyman. For a time, she helped take care of her ailing grandmother, who died in 1992 after living with them for a few months in hospice care. Their place on 46th Avenue had a large meeting hall which they called ‘Center from the Heart’ which they rented out to various groups if it “felt right in their heart” to do so — things such as healing circles, small concerts, talks/discussions. “For those ten years we were completely immersed in the Center and did not really take part in the San Francisco lifestyle and events very often. We lost everything in a fire at the building at one point but returned a few months later and resumed our activities. When not catering or teaching I was doing something for the Center but by the late nineties we were looking for something else.”

In 1998, one of the renters of the Center was running a workshop at the Shenoa Retreat for a week in Philo, Anderson Valley, and needed a caterer so she asked Arline and Ray. “We accepted and obviously did a good job because Shenoa asked us to return the next year for the whole summer and be the house caterers at the retreat. Ray came up that winter and worked on the place we were to stay in. In February 1999 I had a tumor removed from my breast and was thinking it was really time to make some changes. We sublet the Center out in the summer of 1999 and came to the Valley. I am thinking we’d be back in the City later in the year. Ray somehow knew the Valley would be our new home. A week before we were to leave the City our landlord changed his mind about the sublet. We had to move up here with everything we owned. Fortunately, in the May, we met Carolyn Short who owned the Chevron Gas station in Boonville and the property behind it — now Mi Esperanza store. We were able to put our things in storage there.”

They worked the summer and lived on the property in a cabin that Ray had worked on — “he made it functional for the princess in me.” She had started to make friends here, including Carolyn, Leslie Hummel at ‘All that Good Stuff’ store, and Kevin Jones at the Boont Berry store. After the job closed down for the winter, Lauren Keating, of Lauren’s Restaurant, told them of a house that was for rent in town at the corner of Hwy 128 and Mountain View Rd., owned by Vicky Centers, and in the November they moved in and were in the Valley for good.

Arline began to do catering at events in the Valley, at such venues as Highland Ranch and others, and also worked in the kitchen at the Drive-In for owner Cheryl Schrader for a time. Then on February 21st, 2001, Ray, who had been working in construction and as volunteer for the fire department, had a serious fall at the County Dump when dropping off a load of trash. He suffered severe head injury and he’d broken a number of bones. He was in a coma for a few days before coming out of it and starting on his long rehabilitation.

Arline has now been in the Valley for 13 years and has catered for most of those. She now does the bookkeeping part-time (no surprise there!) for Londer Vineyards and did two years of that at Taylor Roberts in Philo. In the fall, she works in the Bay Area with her medical education program.

“I love my life here in the Valley, doing what I do and working on how to create my possibilities. We did not come here to retire. We bought this house, across the highway from the rental we had, in September 2005 and moved in during the spring of 2006 — it’s the house with the large sign out front that says, ‘Peace on Earth; Goodwill to All’. Socially, we host a weekly poker game and have been doing so for 11 years now, and once a month I go to my Bunko evening and get to meet up with a bunch of friends including Diane Heron, Gaile Wakeman, Sandy Creque, the Lombards, the Ridleys, the Leals, and others. I used to do the Trivia Quiz when it was on Wednesday evenings but when it changed to Thursday’s and poker night got a little earlier it clashed and I had to stop going.”

“I like the one degree of separation here; even if you’re not on someone’s ‘A-list,’ you are still involved and connected. I never go to the post office and get out of there in a few minutes — there is always someone to talk to. I like that about the Valley. The bad side is that sometimes people believe everything they hear and fail to check the truth out with the source.”

I asked Arline for her thoughts or comments about these frequently discussed Valley issues or topics of conversation.

The wineries and their impact? “The Valley needs to have income sources for those of us who need employment — the wineries provide that. I believe that Hwy 128 will keep them at a certain level; only so many people will come.”

KZYX radio? “I love the fact that it’s there and we can get local information but… I’m very confused. I don’t know what to think about it anymore. The Valley should be thankful and proud but…”

The AVA? “I am thrilled about having a local paper, although I double-check sometimes to make sure things are true.”

I posed a few obvious and some not-so-obvious questions to Arline.

What excites you; makes you smile; gets your juices flowing? “My dogs.”

What annoys you; brings you down? “Constant negative projection.”

Sound or noise you love? “Waterfalls, birds singing, the wind in the trees, my dogs licking my toes!”

Sound or noise you hate? “Dogs in distress; the ‘Boom! Boom!’ sounds of heavy bass music.”

Your ‘last supper’? “I just completed a 21-day fast so this is tough… Err, oh, yes — my English toffee.”

If you could meet one person dead or alive, one on one for a conversation over dinner, who would that person be? “One more time with my Mom and Dad.”

If you were sitting at home and a fire broke out in the building, what three things would you make sure you took with you? “The dogs, my purse; and the keys to my car. Having been through that experience I can say that a pen and paper is very useful too, pictures mean nothing.”

Does anything scare you? “The future; outliving my money.”

Where would you like to visit if you could go anywhere in the world? “Places with warm water to float in.”

Do you have a favorite song or one that has influenced you? “A song would be ‘You can do magic’ by America or perhaps ‘Time in a bottle’ by Jim Croce.”

Favorite hobby as a teenager? And now? “Back then probably sewing and needlepoint; now it’s knitting or playing ‘Draw Something’.”

Favorite word or phrase that you use? “It’s all good.”

Profession other than your own you’d like to have attempted if you were given the chance to do anything? “A motivational speaker.”

Profession or job you’d not like to do? “A custodian — never again. Or perhaps a plumber — yucky.”

How old were you when you went on your first date? Where did you go? “I have never really had a date. I guess I had a blind date when I was 18 but I cannot remember anything about it.”

Something you would do differently if you could do it over again? — “I would have gone and seen my father on the Friday before he committed suicide. We had arranged to meet but it didn’t happen and he killed himself on the Monday.”

A moment or period of time you will never forget. — “Those first few months in the Valley, in the summer of 1999.”

Something you are really proud of and why? — “The medical education work I do. I feel like I’m making a difference in 1000’s of people’s lives on a very subtle level.”

Favorite thing about yourself, your best quality? — “My presence, I am really there for people. I do not pretend. I give 100%. The friend that I am to my friends.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? — “Well done — you didn’t give up and you did a good job.”

To read the ‘stories’ of other Valley Folk, visit the archives at The next interview will appear in the issue of the Sept. 26 AVA when the guest interviewee from the Valley will be recently retired Philo Post Master Joe Dresch.

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